Employee Involvement: It can Make or Break LEAN

Those familiar with lean may know that the key objective with lean is to eliminate all types of waste. Waste can be just about anything, and there are many different types of wastes in the work environment. When thinking about waste, it is important to remember that waste in the workplace has absolutely no value. In fact, it often costs both the business and the customers’ money. This is because it costs the business more money to create the products, so in turn it costs the customer more when they go out and purchase the product. It is a trickle-down effect. Some common work related wastes include wastes in over processing, transportation, inventory, defects, overproduction, etc. However, when taking all of these components into consideration it may be surprising to know that one of the biggest contributors towards waste is simply a lack of employee involvement. The simple truth is that without adequate employee involvement, businesses are missing out on a wide spectrum of untapped knowledge and creativity.

LEAN + Employee Involvement = Success

What are some of the main components needed for successful lean implementation? To begin with you need a functional leadership team, a comprehensive analysis plan, true motivation towards creating dedicated, successful changes, and employee involvement. Each component plays a substantial role within the lean equation. However, even though all the needed components of lean are important they are not all considered equal. For instance, if you are missing employee involvement within the practice of lean it is basically like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut butter. In other words, employee involvement helps to hold all the lean practices together. In reality, lean truly is a group effort and when all employees are on board with lean the results can be absolutely astounding.

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How to Enhance Employee Involvement

Instead of just simply requiring employees to participate in lean practices as a mandatory part of their job description, it is better to motivate and involve employees through proper training and open group discussions. This type of involvement elicits a positive reaction toward lean versus a negative or ho-hum response. Remember, it is the employees who are out on the work floor each day working with the actual equipment and processes. Many times employees can share valuable information and insight that is not fully recognized by upper levels of staff or management. In addition, employees are also the ones who are actually going to be participating in the recommended lean practices and it can be very helpful to encourage their input when deciding to put certain lean practices into place. When employees are empowered and valued by supervisors or upper management, they feel a sense of “team” and “cohesiveness” which helps to build a rock solid foundation for lean.

Never underestimate the power of employee involvement. The strength of a cohesive, motivated, and dedicated group of employees can move mountains and create a lean environment that is second to none.